Monday, February 25, 2008

Being Me

It is one of those nights; too tired to stay up, or to read any longer, I make sure the c-pap machine is running and the earplugs are in place, and turn off the light, only to find that gentle sleep has fled. I stare into the darkness. Sometimes I just lie there thinking, but this is not one of those nights. There was really no point in writing about that except perhaps to explain to myself why I am sitting here typing at five to two on a night when I went to bed at eleven. On really good sleepless nights some interesting thoughts might come to mind, brilliant letters or essays might compose themselves with more ease than they ever do in the day), or the decisive answer to all problems might be revealed. It's all forgotten by Matins, of course, but there you are: it was brilliant while it lasted.
Just now, in bed, before I gave in and got up, I was thinking about existence and dancing. I might not get around to dancing in this note, but we'll see.
Every now and again I start to marvel at the fact that I should have the fortunate and privileged circumstances to have been born a Canadian in the mid-twentieth century. What if I had been born somewhere else, some other time? But before I allow myself to speculate on the possibilities, and wonder what I have done to deserve all this (which is precisely nothing), and allowing for the fact that it is right to marvel and be thankful at the privileges, the comforts, and the opportunities that I have, I have to remember that I am not putting the point correctly.
You see the point isn't that "I" was lucky enough to be born in Canada in 1956 to parents who were quite successful in life, but that the child who was born to those parents in 1956 turned out to be "I" (or, if you're more comfortable, "to be me"). That combination of heredity and envoironment could not have happened at any other time or in any other place. Had my parents not married, or had one or the other never existed, I would not have been born somewhere or somewhen else. According to the best theology I know, orthodox doctrine rejects the idea of the pre-existence of the human soul (and with it the appalling image of little souls in some heavenly hiring hall waiting to be called). But we will avoid further theological speculation just now. The question of how God's will works in cooperation with the freedom of his creatures is involved, and that is too much for 2:30 in the morning. I'm not going to open all those books. Not even the Summa.

The main result of this line of thought is that I should be even more thankful for these seemingly fortuitous blessings and opportunities than otherwise. But what it led me to when I couldn't sleep was the reflection that if all this is so, and I am a creature of this place and time, why do I feel (some of the time, about some parts of life) that I am not at home, and should have been born in another time, even though that is impossible. This is where the dancing comes in. But I am fading again, the grammar is getting too difficult to manage: it is almost tme to put my head down on the pillow and watch sleep run away again. So just a quick word which might serve as a link to a future post.
Ever since public school I have been uncomfortable with dances and parties where there is dancing. But when I watch movies set in the late 18th or very early 19th centuries, I think: I could do that! Right up to the introduction of the waltz, I think, the dances look to me like they make sense than anything that came after.
But I have to stop now.

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